Pustków – Osiedle

As the Waffen-SS grew, so did the need for military training areas. At Pustkow – Osiedle, about fourty kilometres west of Rzesow in south-eastern Poland, the Polish army had had a military training area taken over by the SS in June 1940. The local population was forcibly relocated and the camp under SS leadership expanded and underwent several name changes before it was named SS-Truppenübungsplatz Heidelager in March 1943. The area consisted of four ring roads (Ring I – IV) around which military barracks and administrative buildings were located. In addition to buildings for military purposes, there were also cinemas, post offices, restaurants/dining rooms and brothels. At Pustkow was educated among others, the Ukrainian 14th Waffen-SS division Galicia. 

The military cadets also participated in massacres of Jews in and around Pustkow. In November 1943, about 2,000 Jews from the Szebnie camp (about sixty kilometres south of Pustkow) were murdered in Dubrocowa. In September 1943, SS leader Heinrich Himmler visited Heidelager. About ten kilometres northeast of Pustkow at a place called Blizna was established in 1943 a training ground for test firing of V1 and V2 rockets. The military training area served as a cover for the test shootings. Just south of the ring roads, a labor camp was established in October 1940 for Soviet prisoners of war, poles and jews. Their main task was to be used as slave workers for various projects. In the summer of 1944, as the Soviet Red Army approached, the military training ground and the labor camp were abandoned. During the camp’s existence, about 7,500 Jews were murdered/died, about 5,000 Soviet prisoners of war and about 2,500 poles.

Current status: Demolished with museum (2015).

Location: 50° 06' 00" N 21° 31' 10" E

Get there: Car.

My comment:

A small part of the prison camp has been reconstructed where copies of a barrack from the military training area and a barrack from the prison camp has been built. Both barracks contain interesting recreated environments and exhibitions about the SS-Truppenubungsplatz Heidelager and the prison camp. Unfortunately, everything is in Polish. The only thing left of the actual prison position are two gate posts to the camp entrance. Just outside the museum is Gora smierci (mountain of death) where prisoners were executed or put in a bunker. Nowadays, there are several memorials along a loop that can be visited, including the bunker. At the four ring roads the barracks and buildings are long gone, but new houses have been built, albeit in much smaller numbers than before.

In the forest, there are still some ruins and foundations left of other buildings that belonged to the area and that can definitely be worth looking up. There are also several water reservoirs that now serve as homes for both frogs and fish. The problem is that all this is in the forest and it can be hard enough to find what you are looking for. It is simply a matter of looking forward and going on a little feeling, which can be interesting enough. At the entrance to each ring road there is an information board. The commandantage also remains but now belongs to a company. As a whole, the museum, Gora smierci and the ring trails are interesting places to visit that can also be combined with the nearby Blizna.

Follow up in books: Barker, A.J.: Waffen-SS at War (1982).